ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday handed down jail sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years for 68 Islamists convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.
The convicts were among dozens of people arrested this year and last for being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in the UAE.
According to prosecutors, they had been working to set “up a group to call on people to adhere to Islam, while in fact it was secretly aiming at seizing power in the country and opposing the main principles which the rule is based on.”
Charges included: plotting the coup during secret meeting in their homes; contacting foreign and international figures and organizations in order to tarnish the image of the state; and providing false information about the country.
A member of the ruling family of Ras al-Khaimah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, Sultan bin Kayed al-Qasimi, was among those who got 10 years in jail.
Eight people received 15-year-sentences in absentia. The court acquitted 26 defendants, including the 13 women implicated in the plot. The trial had begun in March.
The court also confiscated some of the defendants’ properties, state media reported.
Defendants do not have the right to appeal.
Many of the 94 who had been on trial are members of the al-Islah group, which the UAE says has links to Egypt’s branch of the Brotherhood.
Officials of the UAE government have been vocal opponents of the brotherhood in Egypt.
Rori Donaghy, campaign manager at the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, said that al-Islah shares some of the Brotherhood’s ideology “in a loose sense,” but that there was no evidence they had organizational or financial links to it.
Al-Islah, set up in 1974, works in charity and educational projects. However, authorities have become less tolerant toward its members since starting in the mid 2000s.
The Emirates Centre said the trial was not fair and “had purely political motivations.”
“Authorities have sought to silence political activists and intimidate others who may support democratic reforms. Allegations of torture remain without investigation and numerous fair trial standards have been violated,” Donaghy said.
He said that “UAE authorities must quash these verdicts, release these individuals against whom they have presented no credible evidence.”
The center added that authorities arrested two more people on Monday. One of the defendants’ brother also was detained for using his social media account to share his criticisms of the trial.
Fourteen Egyptians, detained in the UAE earlier this year, were still awaiting a separate trial on charges of “establishing” an unauthorized Muslim Brotherhood cell, diplomatic sources in Cairo said.
Tensions between Cairo and Abu Dhabi heightened after the arrests. In February, President Mohammed Morsi dispatched a delegation to negotiate the release of the Egyptian prisoners. However, the Emirati government rejected the request.